Call it season-finale jitters or even "geographic anxiety," but after a grueling first half, the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers managed to hold it together long enough to register a 73-66 win over AUC and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) rival Clark Atlanta on Feb. 23 at Forbes Arena.
With their latest win, the Tigers swept this season's two-game series between the two teams, but not before both squads had committed a combined 22 turnovers before intermission. Morehouse won the first matchup on Feb. 10 with a narrow 57-56 victory.
Nonetheless, the tale of the two neighboring schools, which are located within walking distance along the Southwest corridor of Atlanta's West End community, are quite contrasting.
Morehouse (17-7, 15-2 SIAC) continues to claim second place in the SIAC heading into this week's post-season tournament – one game behind first-place Benedict College – while Clark Atlanta (7-16, 4-13, SIAC) has struggled for much of the season, ending in seventh place.
Yet the Panthers, who always seem to rise to the occasion against Morehouse, were no pushover. Despite holding CAU's leading scorer Jerrel Joye to five points in the first half, and six in the second, the Tigers couldn't shake their competition.
The score was tied at 27-all with 5:20 left in the first half, and Morehouse was able to take a 39-30 advantage into halftime by stringing together a couple of possessions led by Darrius Williams' 12 points and Michael Ziegler's eight in the first half.
"This game is always a classic and our players are really personal with each other," said Morehouse Head Coach Grady Brewer. "They play with each other over the summer. We tried to break away but they [Panthers] kept working hard."
The Panthers kept pace behind Kevin James' 21-point performance. James was 7-of-12 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line. Freshman teammate James Arnold also contributed by coming off the bench to score 12 of his 13 points in the second half to help pull the Panthers to within five points during a 23-11 run with one minute remaining. However, Morehouse was able to close the game out from the free throw line.
Williams, the conference's leading scorer, had a game-high 22 points while adding 10 rebounds, and teammate Shawn Allen added 14 for the Tigers.